Primary care trusts have been warned relatively little savings can be made by cutting medicines waste.

A report by the York Health Economics Consortium and University of London school of pharmacy calculated £90m worth of unused medicines is stored in patients’ homes at any one time, £110m is returned to community pharmacies each year and up to £50m disposed of by care homes.

It says an average PCT using available waste reduction initiatives would struggle to save more than £0.5m a year - equivalent to less than 2 per cent on the £8bn annual primary and community care medicines bill.

Some disputed the findings. NHS North East Essex assistant director of medicines management and pharmacy commissioning Paul Breame said the report’s saving estimate was “understated” as it did not include the cost of drug non-compliance.